A coming-of-age story about a teenager who, despite a rough start, starts to find himself thanks to stock car racing and an uncle who actually cares.
Nowak's (Redline, 2013, etc.) novel centers on Cody, a sensitive, artistic 15-year-old kid from Portland, Oregon, whose mild rebellious streak has left his distant and uncompassionate parents extremely unenthused. At the start of the novel, Cody, who secretly wants to be a writer, gets caught by the police spraying graffiti at the zoo. Cody's father gives him two options: go to military school to get his act straight, or go live with his "black sheep" uncle Race, who lives a few hours away in Eugene. Cody chooses to move in with his uncle, and when he arrives, he is less than pleased with his new living situation--the "bedroom" of a trailer. While Cody and Race get off to a rocky start (e.g., Race catches Cody drinking some of his beers, then stealing a street sign), Cody grows to like his uncle when he introduces Cody to his passion--fixing and racing stock cars. The troubled teenager's life begins to rapidly improve, with new interests in things like cars and karate as well as new friends such as Race's mentor, Kasey. Then something unexpected happens: his uncle gets into a bad wreck on the racetrack, suffering a traumatic brain injury that lands him in the hospital. His future uncertain, Cody is left wondering if he'll be forced to return to live with his folks or grandmother or if he can find a way to stay in the new environment that has been making him happy. Nowak capably depicts a realistic, likable teenager with typical teenager flaws. Cody is moody and rebellious, disobeying his parents and uncle; yet he's also sweet and bright with a great sense of humor--and a great T-shirt collection. One reads: "I have animal magnetism. When I go outside squirrels stick to me." Nowak also paints a vivid, thrilling portrait of the stock car racing world, which will surely be enjoyed by racing enthusiasts.
An endearing story about a teenager, his mentor, and what a difference true, unselfish love can make.
I thoroughly enjoy Lisa Nowak's books and have especially enjoyed using her Full Throttle series in working with my students. The characters are all so believable and definitely relatable to adolescents. I find that the lessons they learn are valuable and at times similar to things my students are dealing with. In one student's case, I was able to draw from situations in the books to use as comparisons and possible solutions. It was great to not have to "lecture."
I really cannot put in words how much I enjoy Lisa's books. I'm constantly suggesting them to teachers in our school and always look forward to getting a student interested. The characters feel so real you can't wait to read the next book to stay involved with them. I am anxiously awaiting more books from Lisa!
~ Linda Ryan, School Counselor, Londonderry H.S.